Scott Ford

Born in Denver

Scott Ford 2 months, 1 week ago on Building a friendlier downtown: Steamboat Springs City Council weighs urban renewal plan

Hi Neal –

Simply put, the City Charter adopted in the early 70’s gives City Council total control over capital expenditures. Citizens do not get to vote on capital projects unless the project is being funded through a methods subject to TABOR restrictions.

I suppose a citizen’s initiative could amend the existing City Charter which would limit Council’s ability to expend funds on a capital project over some pre-determined amount. At the core of this question does the citizenry trust City Council? If not, every two years there is an opportunity to elect four new members to City Council. This is why it matters who is elected to City Council.

In the interim if one is opposed to a project make sure individual Council members are aware of their reasons. Complaining about City Council at the coffee shop or at the Post Office may be cathartic but not very effective. Watching City Council meetings “live” on TV or replay – maybe informative but not as effective as coming to City Council meetings. What is more impactful is calling council members, writing editorials and speaking during Public Comment. I recognize that actively engaging in the civil discourse can be time consuming, frustrating and often fruitless. (Been there done that!) However, if one is passionate about an issue there is no need to be shy. (Let’s not fool ourselves – posting on articles likely has more entertainment value than civic value.)

City Council can refer almost anything to the ballot. However, Council does not often do this. The last time I recall that City Council referred something to the ballot was in 2007(?) when they asked the voters to approve an increase in Council’s pay.

It would be possible for City Council to refer to the voters a decision to limit Council’s ability to form URA districts and used Tax Increment Financing. Possible? YES. I could make this motion. I think that there would be a 50/50 chance it would die for the lack of a second – and if seconded fail 6/1 or at best 5/2. What’s the point? A grassroots citizen’s petition initiative would be more effective and send a much clearer message and/or make this a campaign issue in the upcoming November election.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow council members.)

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Scott Ford 2 months, 1 week ago on Building a friendlier downtown: Steamboat Springs City Council weighs urban renewal plan

3 – One of the key underlying reasons this specific URA with a TIF is being discussed is that it “ties the hands” of future City Councils when it comes to the ongoing funding of infrastructure projects within the downtown district. The reason for this is pretty simple – it is a trust issue. The Administrative arm of City Government does not trust the elected representative arm of City Government to “stay the course” regardless of how “cool” the visionary plans for downtown are.

The problem is that future City Councils could change their mind from year to year as well as from Council to Council. How to make sure City Councils don’t change their minds? Lock up the funds well into the future for this City Council and for many years to follow through the creation of a downtown URA district. I am not going to knowingly tie the hands of this council or future councils with such an agreement that goes well into the future which is unknown and I am sure will have its own share of problems. This would be foolish. It is bad policy to do and is an example of the poorest form of leadership.

4 – Without question downtown has infrastructure needs that are the City’s responsibility. I know that and I am willing to do something about them. What needs to be done and how soon it needs to be done should be a topic for City Council deliberation. Those needs and priorities can then be folded into the well-established Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) process. Since money is finite, this means there are going to be tradeoffs based on priorities. For example, perhaps a traffic circle on Central Park Drive would get built later rather than sooner in exchange for public restrooms downtown. Creating a special Downtown District with its own independent list of infrastructure projects subverts the CIP process. There is no good reason to do this.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow council members.)

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Scott Ford 2 months, 1 week ago on Building a friendlier downtown: Steamboat Springs City Council weighs urban renewal plan

Over the past 12 months I have learned a lot about URAs and Tax Increment Financing. I still have a lot to learn. However, I am convinced that the one being discussed for downtown Steamboat Springs is not such a great idea.

1 - Tax Increment Financing (TIF) that involve a redirection of property taxes harms the local school district and all other taxing entities that depend on a portion of their revenue from property taxes. All this talk about “hold harmless agreements” and state backfill is just so much baloney. The school district can demonstrate the on-going “harm” that has occurred as a result of the Mountain URA.

What is mind boggling is that some members of City Council, City staff and downtown property owners are so presumptuous to act as if they know the complexities of the school finance formula better than the school district themselves. As a City Council we need to listen carefully to the school district board members and afford them the respect due to another elected body in our town.

What I want to avoid is a discussion that begins to debate the degree of “harm” that is forced on the schools and all other property tax dependent entities. Give me a break – Harm is Harm! Just because the City of Steamboat Springs can establish a URA district and impose a TIF without any permission from the voters or other taxing entities dependent on property taxes, does not mean it should.

2 – As URAs go this one is a bit goofy. In the URAs I have reviewed they are usually tied to an agreement that a private developer will commence with a well-defined project if the URA district is form and a TIF imposed. The agreement with the developer(s) is most importantly enforceable. If the developer does not do their part there are significant consequences. There is no such agreement being discussed with this downtown URA. All the “good things” that some believe will result are based on faith alone. In addition, the investment in the “faith” seems rather one-sided which makes this downtown URA unique from the typical URA.

All this talk about “public/private partnership” is essentially again so much baloney. As evidence of this the business owners in the downtown district have failed twice in an attempt to pass funding for a Business Improvement District.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow council members.)

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Scott Ford 2 months, 1 week ago on Our view: More bang for URA’s bucks

Good Morning John –

Simply put, the City Charter adopted in the early 70’s gives City Council total control over capital expenditures. Citizens do not get to vote on capital projects unless the project is being funded through a methods subject to TABOR.

I suppose a citizen’s initiative could amend the existing City Charter which would limit Council’s ability to expend funds on a capital project over some pre-determined amount. At the core of this question does the citizenry trust City Council? If not, every two years there is an opportunity to elect four new members to City Council.

In the interim if one is opposed to a project make sure individual Council members are aware of their reasons. Complaining about City Council at the coffee shop or at the Post Office may be cathartic but not very effective. Watching City Council meetings “live” on TV or replay – maybe informative but not as effective as coming to City Council meetings. What is more impactful is calling council members, writing editorials and speaking during Public Comment. I recognize that actively engaging in the civil discourse can be time consuming, frustrating and often fruitless. (Been there done that!) However, if one is passionate about an issue there is no need to be shy. (Let’s not fool ourselves – posting on articles likely has more entertainment value than civic value.)

City Council can refer almost anything to the ballot. However, Council does not often do this. The last time I recall that City Council referred something to the ballot was in 2007(?) when they asked the voters to approve a raise in Council’s pay.

It would be possible for City Council to refer to the voters a decision to limit Council’s ability to form URA districts and used Tax Increment Financing. Possible? YES. I could make this motion. I think that there would be a 50/50 chance it would die for the lack of a second – and if seconded fail 6/1 or at best 5/2. What’s the point? A grassroots citizen’s petition initiative would be more effective and send a much clearer message and/or make this a campaign issue in the upcoming November election.

I would much rather used Council’s authority to refer items to the ballot on issues where citizens are precluded from doing so. An example, Council could refer to the ballot the question whether or not to remove city sales tax on groceries. A citizen’s initiative could not do this because it involves the levy of taxes. This could be yet another important campaign issue. I think we could hopefully be more successful than the City of Loveland’s City Council was.

http://lovelandpolitics.com/ashmarket.html

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow council members.)

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Scott Ford 2 months, 2 weeks ago on City sees strong interest in police station committee

Good Morning Damian –

I understand your opinion “that council will outsource this important decision, so inevitable blame of some sort can be deflected.” The responsibility for this decision rest entirely on the shoulders of City Council. Council will own this decision for better or worse.

I do not think we are stuck in Paralysis by analysis. Simply put, there has been a lack of analysis. This is because throughout this process the temptation has been to quickly jump to a single “solution” before the problem we are trying to address has been defined and what “success” would look like.

Essentially the only “solution” presented has been build a new police station that is 15,000 sq. /ft. – out of downtown that will cost about $10 million that will be primarily paid for out of existing capital reserves. The only analysis that that been done has been to support this solution. This has been the solution presented by staff. To be clear I do not fault staff on presenting this solution, however, it is only “A” solution and not “THE” only solution.

I am a proponent of exercising great care as we move forward with this idea. One of the major reasons for this is that regardless of the decision City Council eventually makes – the citizens may not have the ability to “unwind” the decision via the referendum process no matter how “nutty” it may be. Since it is a capital expenditure that may not use “bonding”, City Council’s decision is final. It is final unless City Council wishes to refer the decision to the ballot. Thus far there is no appetite on the part of a majority of the current City Council to do this.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by other council members.)

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Scott Ford 2 months, 2 weeks ago on City sees strong interest in police station committee

Hi Fred – You have a good point and I understand it.

From my perspective the discussion about the Police Station started at the end rather than at the beginning. By end I mean that – City Council was informed in the summer of 2012 that there was a buyer for the building, at a specific price. In addition, that buyer wanted to take possession of the building within 18 months. Prior to the announcement that the Public Safety Building was being sold – the Police Station was not even on the City’s 6 year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The pending sale of the building rocketed it to the top of the CIP list as the most important and expensive thing the local tax payers needed to do and pay for.

Faced with the reality that essentially the police department would be homeless in 18 months – that started a process that started at the end rather than the beginning. Simply put, it has been back-ass-wards. With multiple miss steps – proposal to house the police department in the Iron Horse Inn, build a 18,000 sq./ft. facility in Rita Valentine Park, moving the police before there was a plan for the Fire Equipment, failure to disclose possible conflict of interest, etc., etc.

Recognizing what has been proposed would be this City’s largest capital expenditure in its 115 year history. I think we are now starting where we should have started 3 years ago. Yes there is a need, however, the due diligence on options available to meet the need may result in something that has not been thought of previously and desire vs. needs will have been carefully sorted out and communicated to the tax payers.

Without question it would have been far easier to just write a taxpayer check for $10 million ($8 million City + $2 million in grant funds OPM). I recognize that we may wind up at this exact point. I am OK with that provided we have explored and evaluated all the options that could result in savings. I am confident that through this process a facility that meets our community’s needs for many years ahead will emerge.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow council members.)

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Scott Ford 2 months, 2 weeks ago on Our view: YVHA housing project shows promise

When it comes to affordable/attainable housing very little has been done to clearly define the problem beyond housing supply is limited and therefore expensive and some industry sector wages are low. I think as a community we would make some great steps forward if we did the hard work to define what the desired outcome (success) looks like and what measurements are going to be used to assess the efforts. I think success may look different by cohort (age grouping). Housing success for 19-24 year olds look very different from a family with adults between the ages of 25-45. This 25-45 cohort could be further segmented by incomes.
For example, If success is defined that in the greater Steamboat Springs area that households who are renting between the age of 25-34, that at least 50% of them are paying less than 30% of income on gross rent – that can be measured. (BTW – that number is currently 65%). Not only can it be measured but it can be compared to similar communities.
Will the Elk River project help address an affordable/attainable housing issue? I don’t know because I don’t know what problem we are trying to address. Defining the problem in ways that can be measured will help us from engaging in efforts that can best be characterized as “boiling the ocean”. Targeting what success looks like and how it is going to be measured – goes a very long way to focusing efforts/policies that are effective.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow members.)

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Scott Ford 2 months, 2 weeks ago on Our view: More bang for URA’s bucks

No need to worry about hijacking my meeting. I am there to listen and I am happy to chat about just about anything related to this community. I truly enjoy the exchanges that occur.

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Scott Ford 2 months, 2 weeks ago on Our view: More bang for URA’s bucks

A citizen initiative is an entirely different thing and is what the citizens of the City of Littleton recently used to now require that the formation of URA districts and the use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) be subject to a citizen vote before they are created. Essentially the citizens of Littleton wrestled this authority away from their City Council. That could happen here but those interested in doing this would need to get their act together pretty quickly. Citizen initiatives require a threshold of 15% of the qualified electorate.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow members.)

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Scott Ford 2 months, 2 weeks ago on Our view: More bang for URA’s bucks

Good Morning John – The citizens can vote, however, what they can vote on is narrowly defined in Section 8 of the Steamboat Springs City Charter. Citizens can petition City Council to reconsider only ordinances (not motions or resolutions) and only ordinances that do not involve budgets, capital program, appropriation of any revenues, levy of taxes, or calling a special elections, or authorizing the issuance of securities, or ordinances to meet the contractual obligations of the City. {Levy of taxes now subject to TABOR}

For example, City Council approved by ordinance to purchase the Iron Horse in 2007. This was a contractual and capital expenditure and therefore not subject to a citizen vote. To purchase the Iron Horse the City issued bonds funded via Certificates of Participation (issuance of securities) and therefore not subject to vote. Spending $8 million on a Police Station would not be subject to a citizen vote. Spending $10 million on downtown infrastructure improvements would not be subject to a vote via citizen referendum to reconsider. What would be subject to a vote would be if general revenue bonds were going to be issued to service the debt associated with either of these projects.

For example, on March 3rd City Council passed modification to the downtown noise ordinance. If a group disagreed with the City Council’s decision they could form a Petitioners’ Committee, circulate a petition for City Council to reconsider their decision. The petition would require signatures from 10% of the qualified electorate (registered voters) within the City of Steamboat Springs. Qualified electorate include both active and inactive registered voters as of the date of the last municipal election (in this example November 2013). Currently that number as reported by the Routt County Clerk is 10,158. This would mean that the petition for re-consideration would need to have slightly over 1,000 qualified signatures. This is no easy task and it was not designed to be easy. In January 2010 the City Charter was amended lowering the number of signatures from 20% to 10% - so it got a little bit easier.

The reality is that the citizens are very limited as to what they can vote on to overturn an ordinance passed by City Council. The City Council within the context of the Steamboat Springs City Charter has great power and responsibility. This is why it is so important who is elected to City Council represents your views and that you have great access to them to express your views. (City Council on its own motion, has the power to submit at a regular or special election any proposed ordinance or any question to a vote of the qualified electors.) (Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow members.)

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